With car designers always keen to ensure mirrors interfere as little as possible with the airflow over the car, the FIA has long had to lobby to enforce their size and position for safety reasons. security.
But for a series as high-tech as Formula 1, it seems out of place that it still relies on an old concept of fixed mirrors that have been ubiquitous on cars since their first race.
Indeed, in the era of precise GPS, on-board cameras and high-speed digital processing, it would seem logical that F1 would take the plunge and go to the cutting edge.
This could mean it’s mandatory for F1 cars to be fitted with rear-facing cameras which can show what’s happening behind on a small screen in the cockpit.
The idea of having rear-facing cameras and cockpit screens is nothing new in F1, and there were discussions several years ago between the drivers and the FIA about it.
Carlos Sainz said in 2018: “We offered to have cameras, instead of just a mirror, which they have in other categories, and I think the FIA will look into that. But it is not yet clarified.
“It comes from the drivers, we know the drivers in other categories have it. I think they have it in the WEC. It doesn’t mean it’s going to come, but it could be an option.
Digital rear view mirror with AMOLED technology in the Audi R18 e-tron quattro
Photo by: Audi Communications Motorsport
Digital screens in the cockpit are indeed regularly used in other categories, and made their debut in 2012 in sports cars when Audi used them on its R18 at Le Mans.
These days they are commonplace in the WEC and are also used in other categories like the DTM.
But while the FIA is aware of the quality of their work elsewhere, there are still big hurdles before such in-car displays can make the transition to F1. FIA single-seater technical director Nikolas Tombazis has explained three critical issues that need to be overcome before screens can be considered for F1.
Asked by Autosport about the technology, he said: “We have thought about it. There are three problems to solve.
“The first is that there is not a lot of space for a television screen in the cockpit. Secondly it’s sometimes used in closed cockpit cars which have rather dark conditions inside you can see if you put your phone in the sun you don’t want drivers squinting to see if they can see anything thing. So there is this.
“Then, the third thing is that there is a time for adaptation of your focus from one distance to another distance, which worries us a little too and which must be carefully assessed.
“At the speeds you’re going, you don’t have to lose that half-tenth of a second to adapt, so that’s another problem.
“We’re looking at that, and maybe also other ways to do it, like an audio cue or whatever, but it’s still a work in progress.”
Robert Kubica, Orlen Team ART, BMW M4 DTM, panel view
Picture by: ITR eV
With the prospect of digital screens used in F1 still seeming a long way off, visibility to the rear will remain totally dependent on mirrors in the medium term.
This is why the FIA is always careful that the design of the cars does not impede what the drivers can see behind them – and an intervention on the rules like what is happening for 2023 will be necessary.
What’s changing with F1 mirrors for 2023
Dark Mercedes W13 2023 mirrors
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
In order to help drivers see better in their mirrors, the FIA has chosen to increase the size of the mirror surface for 2023.
The reflective surface will increase in width by 50mm, which means the mirror body needs to be wider and the position of the stays may also need to be changed accordingly.
The teams had the opportunity to test some solutions during the season to see what difference it could make for the drivers.
Red Bull was the first to test a larger mirror in Hungary, followed by Mercedes in Belgium and then a group test with all teams at the Dutch Grand Prix.
An example of the wider mirror can be seen below, as Aston Martin has lengthened its mirror for the test.
He also saw this as an opportunity to not only extend the surfaces that wrap around the main body, but also to add an additional vertical fin, not only adding additional rigidity to the structure, but also another means of stream diversion.
Mirrors Aston Martin AMR 22 2023
Photo by: Giorgio Piola
Tombazis explained that the increased dimensions for 2023 are primarily intended to help drivers who didn’t like having curved mirrors inside the housings.
“We opted for a slightly larger mirror,” he said. “I believe it went from 150mm to 200mm, and we saw that improved the angle view.
“For some pilots, it doesn’t make any difference, because some pilots already have quite bulging mirrors. Some other drivers don’t like having very curved mirrors because it distorts their view too much. So it’s all a bit personal.
“I think what we’ve changed will improve visibility for riders who couldn’t have very curved mirrors.”